Microsoft Corp.s Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 effectively rode herd over numerous Windows 2000 and 2003 servers and a host of other Microsoft operating systems in eWEEK Labs tests. IT shops with a significant percentage of Windows systems should consider using MOM 2005 for day-to-day operations, including performance monitoring and automatic system tuning. We tested early release-to-manufacturing code for MOM 2005 that became available last month. MOM 2005 made it easy to manage all our Microsoft server systems, including IIS (Internet Information Services), SQL Server, Windows DNS (Domain Name System) and Exchange Server. The management packs and specialized reports included in the base product quickly alerted us when simple but potentially catastrophic events occurred, such as when our Windows 2000 Domain Controller became unavailable.In addition to using the simple server up/down status (which any number of management tools can provide), we harnessed MOM 2005 to monitor memory and disk usage as well as the state of several processes, such as Active Directory replication. MOM 2005s availability monitoring of Windows systems is far superior to that found in MOM 2000; we believe this alone makes an upgrade almost mandatory at most sites using the older version.Current users with a support contract can upgrade to MOM 2005 at no cost. For new customers, Microsoft has made a small pricing change that should make it much easier for IT departments to acquire MOM 2005, which will become available next month. The new edition will cost $795 per server. Previously, MOM was licensed per processor, which was a much more cumbersome and often more expensive proposition for IT departments. MOM 2005 includes a new Operator Console and a reworked Administrator and Reporting Console. The Operator Console should significantly reduce the costs and security concerns associated with running MOM 2005. MOM 2005 is part of Microsofts Dynamic Systems Initiative, the companys utility computing plan. Click here to read more about DSI. During tests, we could see problems in our test network in a matter of seconds, whereas in MOM 2005s predecessor, MOM 2000 Service Pack 1, it wasnt always clear when a new problem needed to be addressed. Although new in MOM 2005, operator consoles are not a novel concept for competitors. Computer Associates International Inc.s Unicenter Network and Systems Management and IBMs Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrator, among others, have had operator consoles for a while. And even when MOM 2005 is equipped with third-party plug-ins to monitor Unix and Linux systems along with non-Microsoft applications, it isnt a replacement for Computer Associates and IBMs historically heterogeneous platform management tools. Thus, even with the significant changes we found for the better in our tests, MOM 2005 still should be seen as an additional tool that IT managers use to manage Windows systems and integrate MOM 2005 with an existing data center management platform. The new SQL Server instance monitor is a compelling feature, especially for IT managers with multiple Windows server installations. MOM 2000 could monitor SQL Server only if SQL Server was up and running. In tests of MOM 2005, we were able to detect whether specific databases were on our SQL Server systems. We could also track our test databases individually and set up tasks that automatically restarted any database that went down. Next page: Smooth operator.